Though millions of people may feel they personally know the multi-faceted Tameka Raymond, in reality, she remains an enigma. An eager media often edits her life down to photos, rumors and gossip surrounding her highly visible break-up and custody battle with ex-husband, multi-platinum recording artist Usher Raymond; yet she continues to be a successful entrepreneur, famed designer, and most importantly, a hands-on mother who never fails to put her children first.
Recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award in Fashion by the Art Institute of Atlanta, her star in the fashion industry shines brighter than any tabloid story. Having counted Jay-Z, Lauryn Hill, Toni Braxton, Nas, Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, Ciara and Chris Brown among her celebrity A-List clientele as a stylist, Tameka also taught fashion styling at AIU and designed imaging for artists’ complete tours. In constant motion, she is a creative force to be reckoned with in a world where many women would depend on the superstardom of their significant others to elevate their brand.
Still, the heightened interest in the fashion influencer is inevitable as the details of her former relationship play out before the world and Raymond stands by quietly, unable to stop it. Many women from all walks of life can relate closely to her situation, because they’ve been in their own versions of it. When asked by theGrio how she’s holding up through the media circus, Tameka responded with a calm strength, tinged with contentment. “I’m doing fine. I’m doing well. I have great people around me who love me and keep me laughing,” she said.
Tameka’s sole concern, as it always is, lies with her children. She keeps her older boys, Darrin, 21, Ryan, 13, and Kile, 11, in the loop so that they’re not caught off guard by anything they may read in the media. But her younger babies, Usher, 4, and Naviyd Ely, 3, are kept extremely insulated. “I don’t want them exposed to their father’s fans, because that can get a little crazy, especially those people who may actually approach my children and ask them questions,” said the protective mother.
What exactly are those questions – and how complex are the answers? How exactly did things fall apart between the Raymonds, a couple who ignored intense criticism of the union and stood by each other’s side like Bonnie and Clyde?
“Well, if I had to point to one thing, one time, it would be after the birth of our second son, Naviyd,” Tameka said as she contemplated the demise of her relationship. “Until that point, we were a very passionate, very loving couple, but then the pressure of the entertainment industry began to slowly creep in and poison our marriage. There comes a point when as a married man with throngs of adoring female fans, you still have to pretend you’re available, but he wasn’t available… and that began the problems.”
Those problems began to slowly dissolve, however, with the opening of her boutiques, Estella and Estella Home, in Roswell, Georgia. Named after her beloved grandmother who passed away in 2009, the businesses provide a sanctuary for Tameka, a place of positive energy to counteract all the negativity that is hurled her way. “My style is a blend of homey and elegant, which is something that I learned from my grandmother. Whether it’s clothing, home furnishings, home accents, candles, pillows, or bookshelves, every piece is a piece of me and I’m extremely proud of it.” As many mothers know, juggling motherhood and business can become a high energy balancing act; thus, a decision had to be made to ensure that both her family and businesses would thrive at the highest level possible. That’s why Tameka made the decision to consolidate Estella and Estella Home.
“My kids take precedence over business; however, I do business for my kids. I want them to know that their mom works and she’s independent. I have to leave a legacy for my sons, so that eventually when I go on to glory,” Raymond laughs, “they have the savvy to keep it going. I definitely want to birth an entrepreneurial spirit within them. I don’t believe in silver-spoon children and you will not see my boys hanging on a beach all day, posing for paparazzi.”
Staying true to that philosophy, Tameka’s oldest son is an assistant manager at her other venture, KangaZoom. An indoor play palace for children ages 2-12, she sees it as a way to encourage independence within her son and to also merge her love for children and design.
“I just kept renting places to do birthday parties for my kids. And since I’m always trying to find places to take my business, I bought a KangaZoom franchise in Atlanta. It stays crowded and makes me feel so happy. The kids are having a great time; it’s my own little fantasy land. From the décor stand-point, I made it very light and airy. I totally changed the original lay-out and all of the colors, but I think that Trina Scott [owner of the KangaZoom franchise] would agree that it was a definite upgrade and improvement. I absolutely love it! It’s peaceful – no tension, no drama.”